Building a home gym in an apartment can be a challenging because you’re constrained by floor space, neighbors and weight. What kind of compact home gym setups can you have in a home gym? Let’s find out.
The best compact exercise equipment setups that work in an apartment are resistance bands, kettlebells, adjustable dumbbells + a bench, or a multi-gym. For cardio exercise an exercise bike or rowing machines are the best choices. Cardio machines and muscle building equipment can be combined.
Find out the specific details and equipment recommendations below.
Best Apartment Small Exercise Equipment
Apartments are usually smaller than houses, you have neighbors to contend with and putting a lot of weight on the floor could pose a problem. So you’re right to research what kind of equipment works to build a home gym in an apartment.
What you want from apartment gym equipment:
- Not too heavy
- Not too noisy
Below you can see a few different setups that all work very well in an apartment.
Apartment gym setup #1: Resistance bands
The most compact and lightest way to get some workout equipment in your home gym is a set of resistance bands. They are very cheap for what you can do with them and they are effective for building muscle, rehab and improving flexibility.
Go for a complete set of tube bands with handles. Look for a combo set that has; 5 different bands, 2 handles, 2 ankle straps and a door anchor. That is a great starter set that allows you to do a lot of different exercises. You can add some extra mini bands or wall anchors to extend the functionality of the set.
- Set of 5 bands. Can be stacked up to 125 or 150 lbs.
- Includes door anchor, ankle straps, D handles
- Comes with a carrying bag for easy travel
- Better stretch resistance than other brands
Apartment gym setup #2: Multi-gym
Do you like the machines in the gym? It’s hard to replace all of those machines at home let alone in an apartment. However, there is a piece of home gym equipment that tries to replace as many gym machines as possible. That equipment is called a multi-gym. These multi-gyms come in many different sizes and price ranges but there are certainly some compact options.
The better multi-gyms are larger and more expensive but are also much better. Get the best one you can afford and fit in your apartment. Click here to find the best compact multi-gyms
Almost all multi-gyms have exercise options for arms, chest, back, legs and glutes. You can get a full body workout on a multi-gym in a similar way you can with all the different machines in a commercial gym.
Multi gyms do take up space permanently, you can’t move them. So you need a dedicated space or corner in your apartment to be able to place one of them. Most of them aren’t works of art so you probably don’t want them in the living room.
Apartment gym setup #3: Adjustable dumbbells and bench
Maybe you prefer something a little more like a real free weights gym. Dumbbells and a bench allow you to do many exercises with free weights. A bench is not too big and heavy and it’s pretty easy to push into a corner when not in use. Most benches have little wheels on one end so they’re easy to move around.
Normal dumbbells are quite expensive and take up a lot of space. Luckily there are adjustable dumbbells. Adjustable dumbbells replace many pairs of dumbbells while just being a single pair. That means they’re cheaper and smaller which is more suitable for an apartment.
There are different types of adjustable dumbbells. The cheap type is just a handle with screw collar. With that type, you have to unscrew the collar and change the plates on the handle yourself. The second type of adjustable dumbbells has a base station and selection mechanism that picks up the amount of weight you set. The second type is far easier to use but more expensive.
|Bowflex||ST 552 (Pair)||5-52.5 lbs.||2.5 lbs. increments up to 25 lbs. 5 lbs. increments after.||Buy on Amazon|
|Bowflex||ST 1090 (Single)||10-90 lbs.||5 lbs. increments||Buy on Amazon|
|PowerBlock||EXP Stage 1 (Pair)||5-50 lbs.||5, 7.5, 10,15, 17.5, 20 25, 27.5, 30, 35, 37.5, 40, 45, 47.5 and 50 lbs.||Buy on Amazon|
|Yes4All||Adjustable Dumbbells||5-52.5 or 100 lbs.||2.5 lbs. increments||Buy on Amazon|
Apartment gym setup #4: Short barbell +Squat stands + Bench
Sometimes you just want to work out with a barbell. It’s possible to put a power cage in an apartment. But since we’re talking about small workout equipment, a power cage doesn’t really fit the bill. You’ll still need something to rest the barbell on. You can’t do all barbell exercises when the bar is on the floor. For things like squats and bench presses, you want the bar to be held at the right height.
So if a power cage is out of the question, squat stands are a good alternative. Squat stands are two pillars that are often adjustable in height to rest a bar on. Some of the stands are connected (sometimes width adjustable) while others are separate. That means you can use a shorter barbell than you would have to with a power rack. So you could use a 6’ long barbell which is a pretty big space savings over the standard 7’2 bar. Going from a full sized barbell and power cage to short bar and squat stands saves a lot of space.
The downside of squat stands is that they’re less safe. A bolted down squat stand has no chance of toppling over even if you drop 600 lbs. Squat stands don’t have that stability. So if you want to lift really heavy, it’s not a great choice.
A bench expands the use of this setup a lot just like with dumbbells. A bench allows you to do bench presses, incline bench presses, seated overhead presses etc.
|Squat Stands||CDCASA||Adjustable Squat Stands||Buy on Amazon|
|Barbell||Rage Fitness||6' Olympic Bar||Buy on Amazon|
|Bench||CAP Barbell||Deluxe Utility Weight Bench||Buy on Amazon|
Apartment gym setup #5: Kettlebells
Another piece of equipment that can just provide a whole workout are kettlebells. You need two or three kettlebells of different weights to do a full body workout. You don’t really need anything else. Kettlebells can be put in a cupboard pretty easily so you don’t need any permanent floor space. And even if you don’t want them in a cupboard, just put them under a desk or something like that.
A vinyl coated kettlebell helps prevent damage to you floor and reduces noise but a little rubber gym mat is even better. Read more about kettlebells here
Cardio machines for an apartment
The setups above are for muscle and strength building. But what about cardio exercise. No worries, here are the best options. You can easily combine each of these machines with one of the setups above without any issues. As long as you’ve got enough space, there is no reason why it wouldn’t work.
For an apartment you want a cardio machine that’s relatively small, light and is quiet. Cardio machines where there is an impact can transfer a lot of noise and vibrations to other apartments. That means a treadmill is not the best choice for the neighbors. There are ways to minimize the noise (like a good treadmill mat) but it’s hard to get rid of completely. Treadmills are quite large as well.
Better options for an apartment gym are;
- Exercise bike: An exercise bike is the smallest cardio machine. It’s also light so easy to move and effective. You can choose a spin or upright bike for a tough workout or a recumbent bike for a more relaxed, steady state workout. A spin bike only needs a space of about 4’x5’ when in use and much less when not in use.
- Air bike: An air bike is basically an exercise bike but the way of creating resistance is different enough to warrant a separate mention. Click here to find out more about air bikes.
- Rowing machine: A rowing machine is long and narrow. Most of them can be folded up so they do take up quite a bit of space while in use but when folded, they’re pretty compact. Rowing is also a full body exercise that focuses on the back of the body which is really necessary for most people.
Those options above are compact, light and effective. However, in the end, you just want to get the machine you’ll use the most/enjoy using the most. Because one of the biggest parts of getting fit is consistency, you need a cardio machine you’ll actually use.
Apartment gym combinations
Of course you can combine one or more of the options above into one apartment gym. Resistance bands, kettlebells and adjustable dumbbells are all pretty small. You can easily put them in a cabinet and not even see you have workout equipment. Even a bench and squat stands aren’t too big and can be pushed into a corner pretty easily.
A multi-gym is not so easy to move around. However, you can still combine a multi gym as long as you’ve got enough space. And just getting a few kettlebells or set of resistance bands is a very small extra cost compared to the price of a multi-gym.
Working out can be noisy and sweaty. Not all types of flooring will deal with that all that well. Carpet and hardwood flooring don’t deal with sweat very well. It absorbs the sweat and that just creates a breeding ground for all kind of bad things.
Dropping dumbbells on the floor, using a multi-gym and other things create impacts on the floor. Those impacts will usually be audible to the neighbors.
For those reasons, think about getting some good gym flooring. I would recommend high quality rubber mats. If you want a mat that’s easily rolled up and moved, 1/4” is OK although that doesn’t dampen all that much noise (more than nothing of course). ½” is a better thickness but quite a bit heavier. So if you want to leave the flooring in place permanently, go for a thicker rubber mat.
Rubber gym flooring is non-absorbent and dampens quite a bit of noise among other things. Click here to find out more about gym flooring.
Favorite home gym tools
Many people often forget a few important pieces of their home gym that isn’t directly gym equipment. Here are my favorite home gym tools.
- Interval timer: To time your intervals and all types of other workouts, the GymNext Flex is easily the best and easiest to use.
- Mirrors: Fab & Glass (Amazon link) makes the best large mirror sheets so you can see your exercise form.
- Flooring: American Floor Mats gym flooring (Amazon) or equipment mats make your gym quieter, easier to clean and keeps your floor and equipment safe.
- Fan: The Rowenta VU5670 (Amazon) is a great way to stay cool while working out.